Robin Dickinson was working as a physician in Denver while her husband looked after their two young children when she suffered two strokes. Unable to work because of the resulting dizziness and fatigue, Dickinson lived off savings while her husband took care of her and the kids. Their money dwindled to the point where they could only afford potatoes, oatmeal and rice. Then Dickinson realized her family qualified for food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“There’s a safety net there for a reason. It’s for people in our situation,” she told Mary Jo Brooks of the PBS News Hour. “It has nothing to do with your education. It has nothing to do with how good a person you are or how hard you work. It has everything to do with your financial situation. And our financial situation was really bad.” Dickinson’s kids cheered when they were able to purchase fruits and vegetables for the first time in weeks with the help of SNAP.
As she recovered, Dickinson became determined to change people’s perceptions about the sort of people who rely on SNAP. She joined Hunger Free Colorado‘s photography program. The non-profit gave cameras to people receiving food assistance, and mounted an exhibit of their photos called “Hunger Through My Lens” at the Colorado State Capitol. Now Dickinson has a goal of working her way off public assistance within a year, and has started her own family practice to serve the poor. She can only work a few hours at a time, but she told Brooks, “We have a five-year goal of building my own building in order to have more services offered for my patients at affordable prices. And I have big plans.”
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